ClientEarth has begun legal action to stop harmful pollution from a coking plant in Silesia, southern Poland, where residents say its emissions are making them ill.
The environmental law group has acted in response to appeals and requests of the inhabitants of Czerwionka-Leszczyny municipality, near the Dębieńsko plant.
Several dozen similar applications to the Regional Inspectorate for Environmental Protection (WIOŚ) in Katowice were also filed by residents of Czerwionka-Leszczyny, highlighting the harmful emissions from work being carried out at the outdated installation.
Residents with health concerns and ClientEarth are demanding immediate closure of the coke oven furnace.
For years, local people have complained about the poor air quality in the area and the increasing incidence of cancer. They believe it is caused by emissions from outdated coking installations.
Cancer cases in the city are 10 percent higher than in the city of Rybnik – which, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is one of the dirtiest cities in Europe in terms of air quality.
Having analysed information provided by the residents, including the data on cancer incidence, ClientEarth decided to work together with local people to get the plant closed down as soon as possible and improve the quality of the air in the city.
ClientEarth is aware that the Dębieńsko coking plant is destined for closure – at some point. The proposed deadline for an end to its outdated activities is September 4, 2018. However, residents of the municipality, who know the history of the establishment, do not believe the assurances of the plant’s owner.
The plant was built in 1908 and has been earmarked for closure twice before – once during World War II and then again in 1978. Meanwhile, the coking facility operates to this day, and was last renovated in 1986.
The public information available in subsequent annual air quality assessments issued by the Regional Inspectorate for Environmental Protection shows that the annual and daily limit values of airborne pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 are exceeded in the municipality.
In the case of highly toxic and carcinogenic benzene the average permissible concentrations of this harmful substance are close or convergent with the legally permissible limit. Concerns centre on raised levels of benzene levels achieved on May 18, 2017 – of 76.0 μg / m3 and June 4, 2017 – of 100.1 μg / m3, at an annual average of 5 μg / m3.
Media coverage of the increased incidence of cancer in the municipality compared to the national average, the poor air quality in the area and the technical condition of the installation, suggest that the WIOŚ in Katowice may have decided the plant should close.
A few months ago, the plant’s owner, Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa, promised to close the coking plant.
But waiting until the second half of 2018, may have a very negative impact on the residents of the community of Czerwionka-Leszczyny. ClientEarth believes that the health of the population is at risk, and closure must be more immediate.